The “Common Man” According to Andre Chabot

Conservative politicians across the country are “standing up” for the Common Man.

This is his year.

Great, but who is he?  Why are conservatives concerned about his plight and taken up his fight?

Many politicians have offered answers to these questions, but few have been as clear as Andre Chabot, Calgary councillor and the newest entrant to the Calgary mayoral race.

The birth of the Common Man

The Common Man became a political ideal in 1828 when Andrew Jackson defeated John Quincy Adams to become the seventh president of the United States.  Jackson was the first self-made politician to oust an aristocratic incumbent by arguing an education was unnecessary for political leadership.

Politicians have courted the Common Man ever since.

The characteristics of the Common Man  

Mr Chabot says his platform will appeal to the Common Man.  He promises to hold property tax increases to the consumer price index and questions the efficacy of “handouts” for the poor.

andre-chabot

Mr Andre Chabot

But an analysis of Mr Chabot’s rationale reveals some alarming things about the Common Man:

Policy:  Mr Chabot says the government should focus on fiscal responsibility not social spending.

Apparently, the Common Man wants nothing but the basics from his government—police, firefighters, teachers, doctors, nurses, and buildings to house them and roads, tunnels, and bridges to get to them.  The Common Man is a taxpayer, not a citizen; as such he’s prepared to pay taxes but only if they’re tied to the consumer price index.

Analysis:  the Common Man is self-reliant but naïve.  If his taxes don’t cover the cost of policemen, firemen, doctors, nurses, teachers, etc he’d rather be unprotected, uneducated, unhealthy, and stuck in his driveway than pay another red cent in taxes. 

Mr Chabot says “hand-outs” kill initiative (but “hand-ups” might be okay).  He says if someone told him to go “on pogie” when he was supporting his family and working his way through DeVry he’d have stopped working, kicked back, and enjoyed a few beers.

Analysis:  the Common Man is both hardworking and prepared to ditch it all.

World view:  Mr Chabot grew up on a farm in Saskatchewan.  He moved to Calgary in 1971, took a job in construction and worked his way through DeVry while raising three kids with his wife who also worked part-time.  He says he didn’t need anyone to help him out and the struggle made him a better person.

Analysis:  The Common Man’s world view is based on n=1.  His sample size is one (himself).  His personal experience informs his opinion on everything.

The Common Man does not consider how he would have fared if he’d been a single mother, a member of a visible minority or physically or mentally challenged.  He doesn’t wonder whether he would have survived today, 46 years after the conservatives squandered each and every energy boom and failed to create a revenue structure capable of weathering the busts.               

He doesn’t realize that if he had to do it all over again in 2017 he would be struggling to support his family on $42,000/year which is the average annual income for DeVry graduates.

Interestingly, Calgary households earning less than $45,000/year are eligible for subsidized programs.  One wonders whether the Common Man would applaud such subsidies as a “hand-up” or condemn them as a “hand-out”.

Analysis:  The Common Man may have initiative, but he’s also tremendously lucky—he was born at a certain time and equipped with certain chromosomes that gave him an advantage not available to many others.               

Social Issues

Mr Chabot says he understands “there’s a social need out there”, but points out it’s not the City’s responsibility to address those needs because Calgarians need to “hold the government who’s responsible to account and get them to step up to the plate.”

Presumably the responsible government is the provincial government.

Jason Kenney and Brian Jean, both of whom aspire to be the leader of Alberta’s conservatives, say social issues are not their concern.  They attack the NDP government for policies aimed at addressing social issues (see the rhetoric around Bill 1 which will reduce mandatory school fees).

Analysis: social issues are hot potatoes tossed back and forth from one conservative to another until they land in the Common Man’s lap, sadly there’s nothing he can do about them.           

Conservatives love the Common Man

It’s no surprise conservative politicians love the Common Man.

He doesn’t ask for much and has been suckered into believing that the market place will solve everything. When it fails to do so, he can be convinced that the responsibility for providing even the frailest social safety net falls on somebody else.

Silly little common man.

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27 Responses to The “Common Man” According to Andre Chabot

  1. Neil says:

    Nailed it again Susan.
    The biggest fallacy ever told is that “all men are created equal”. If this were the case, then Mr Chabot’s idea of conservatism would work, but clearly as you point out, we are all born with different physical, mental and emotional attributes. My question for smug people like Mr. Chabot is would he like to take a chance on being born again?

    • Neil I love your question. If Mr Chabot were willing to be born again he’d have a 50% chance of being born female, a 30% chance of being a member of a visible minority, a 15% chance of having a disability and a 2% chance of being born into a low income family. He says social issues are someone else’s concern. If he really believes that he should be prepared to roll the dice, right?

      • Neil says:

        Susan, I assume the figures you quote are for Canada but what about the rest of the world? We all could just have easily been born in Syria or Sudan. We in Canada have a distinct advantage and tend to overlook just how blessed we are. I wonder if your 2% low income figure is a typo? Thanks for all you do.👏

      • Neil, these figures are stats for Alberta, but I don’t know what the annual income cut off was for the poverty statistic of 2%. Seems to me that stat must refer to the percentage of the population living in extreme poverty because as you say it’s a very small percentage of our total population. I’ll double check.
        You make a very good point when you ask why limit the born-again pool to Alberta, why not include the rest of the world. Thanks.

      • Neil I did some more digging re: the poverty statistic. A recent report by the Alberta government uses a number of indicators for poverty, using the StatsCan low income measure, 7.6% of Albertans were living in poverty in 2013. The percentage was 10.3% in 2000, dipped to a low of 6.4% in 2012 and started climbing again in 2013. These are the “social issues” politicians like Chabot punt to the provincial government and provincial politicians like Jean Kenney and Brian Jean don’t want to address. Here’s the link: http://www.cwp-csp.ca/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/2015-Province-Poverty-Profiles_AB.pdf

  2. jerrymacgp says:

    “…The Common Man’s world view is based on n=1. His sample size is one (himself). His personal experience informs his opinion on everything…” This is, I think, the best formulation I have ever read of the fallacy of the right-wing populist’s views on public policy. Never mind actual evidence… just make all decisions based on each individual’s own anecdotal experience. Hogwash.

    • Jerry, what I can’t figure out is why so many people buy into the n=1 formulation. Don’t these people have children? Haven’t they noticed how much harder it is for young people to land good permanent jobs nowadays? If they just tuned into their children’s experiences they’d understand that we all experience the world differently. Some of us are blessed with opportunity, others are not. That’s why “social issues” are critically important at ALL levels of government.

  3. roy wright says:

    I have two comments to the blog, which I wholeheartedly agree with.
    1. The N-1 comment really captures the essence of right leaning politicians. It is not all about you but you caring and carrying forward principles that your constituants need and vaule. If that is populism, I cannot buy into it. We do not need a bunch of Donalds running around.
    2. The Common Man concept, and even as explained in 2017 truly grates on me. Does that mean the common woman is dutiful and follows behind her Man and subserviently attends to his command. Time to get out of the 1950’s.

    In conclusion, women…please don’t buy into that concept. You fought far too long to put yourselves in equal footing rather than the dutiful spouse option! We are now in the 21st century and there is no turning back for equal rights!

    • You’re right Roy. The n=1 worldview translates nicely into “it’s all about me”. So if “I” as a healthy white male am successful and you’re not, you have only yourself to blame, the fact that you’re a visible minority single mom doesn’t even hit my radar screen.
      With respect to the Common Woman, I suspect the fact that the expression does not exist speaks volumes about where she fits into the Common Man’s world view.

  4. C. Hunt says:

    The ‘common man’ must be based on ‘common sense’ that includes perpetual economic growth that depends on ignoring the depleting productivity of a finite planet and only looking at the G20 nations and a few dictatorships, where the polarization of wealth is the biggest problem and ignoring the rest of the world that is suffering wars, famine, disease and abject poverty.

    • Well said C.Hunt. I looked up the definition of “common sense” after reading your comment. It means “sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts”. John Ralston Saul’s book on the collapse of globalization contains a short chapter entitled “A Summary of the Promised Future”. Anyone with an ounce of common sense could easily compare the promise of globalization with its actual results and declare the whole thing a disaster…however that would require an honest assessment by those with the most to gain from the status quo.

  5. Interesting fellow amiga; I would very much doubt that he will become your Mayor in October, but, in these matters nothing is to be taken for granted, of course. The “Common Man”, the “Self-Made Man” and other archetypes of masculinity are well documented in various writing from Carl Jung to Robert Bly, Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette. I won’t venture any qualifier in this particular case, but, his lack of empathy for our fellow citizens under duress and hard times shows … Abrazos gentiles | LCA

    • I agree Leo that the odds of Mr Chabot becoming our next mayor are slim, but I worry that Calgarians may be more open to Mr Chabot’s populist platform than Edmontonians for example. Having said that I was surprised by the recent newspaper reports on the CPC federal leadership debates. Apparently Michael Chong was booed in Edmonton when he talked about the need for a carbon tax but was not booed in Calgary. The article said this could be because Calgary conservatives understand better than most that a carbon tax will make it easier to get pipelines built. Sadly Michael Chong may understand this but our provincial and municipal politicians with their “cut taxes” message do not. The result is an appalling lack of support for “social issues”.

  6. Elaine Fleming says:

    You know what, Susan? These politicians do not support, or believe in the “Common man”. The term is kind of old-fashioned (as Roy has pointed out) and perhaps its meaning, like many words, has changed over time.

    “Common” refers to community, what we all have and are entitled to share in- our land, air and water for instance. Another example is our House of Commons, which is supposed to represent all citizens, not just a few who want to decide on everyone else’s entitlement.

    As civic politicians I am guessing they would not put value on things like women’s shelters, community support programs for inner city youth, parks and recreation, transit, city libraries, community policing, public control of water supplies and sanitation, etc. It would be “privatize everything”. I think we have a pretty good idea of who would benefit from tax cuts, too.

    I know who this group is that these politicians are appealing to, and some of these folks are acquaintances of mine. They are of the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality, not realizing or perhaps caring that not everyone has bootstraps. Many in our society are disadvantaged before they are even born. Is that their fault?

    Part of taxation, as you pointed out Susan, is intended to give everyone access to things like education and healthcare. I would like to challenge these people to think where they or their families would be without these benefits. I know where I would be. If you want to know the value of these things, ask a newcomer to our country.

    But there still is another problem, and that is the attitude of “I’ve got mine, so to heck with everyone else”. I don’t know how you change that. This is very destructive to communities, as we bear witness to what is happening south of the border in terms of support for public schools, repeal of Obamacare, privatizing prisons, cancelling environmental protection programs, and so on. The walled country, and gated communities can only survive so long.

    • Great points Elaine, I particularly agree with your comment that the privileged cannot survive behind gated communities forever. Politicians who fall all over themselves trying to represent the “common man” appear to be ignorant of the fact that the election of Andrew Jackson was viewed as the beginning of mob rule. Funny story: when Jackson invited his supporters to the White House to celebrate his victory they overwhelmed the place, ruining carpets with their hobnailed boots and breaking up the glassware and crockery. Jackson ordered the punch bowls to moved outside to the White House lawn and the crowd followed. One wonders how the Americans who voted for Trump will react when the reality of living in Trump World finally sinks in. I get the feeling moving the punch bowl out on to the White House lawn won’t cut it.

  7. Taking a page from Trump’s playbook. There are enough Calgarians, Albertans, and Canadians who think that way, unfortunately, and the number seems to be growing not shrinking. I am sickened to read the comments on any article regarding refugees fleeing America for the safety of the Canadian border.

    • I agree Blog Fodder. I note that Trump’s revised immigration ban dropped Iraq from the list of banned countries. Trump argued the immigration ban makes America safer and gave the example of two men originally from Iraq being arrested on terrorism charges in the US Based on that rationale immigrants from Iraq should be banned but they’re not…makes no sense but hey, who cares, it’s Trump, right.

  8. Compelling commentary…As always. Thanks

    Ken

  9. GoinFawr says:

    Neil:
    “The biggest fallacy ever told is that “all men are created equal”.”

    You’re mistaking that idea; it was never meant to imply ‘equality’ in every sense Neil, just (ostensibly) equal before the law, ie born entitled to the same basic rights. In Canada those are laid out in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” T. Jefferson

    See, nothing there about everyone being born with the exact same skillset/physical beauty/wealth.

    In my opinion, Andrew Jackson (ol’ Sharp Knife’s) ‘common man’ was a murdering genocidal Trail of Tears advocate masquerading as a Christian. If that is who the conservatives are trying to appeal to in 2017 the next thing they will be pushing is ‘Natural Law’…let’s hope there aren’t enough of such creatures left to make a difference.

  10. GoinFawr, and Neil, both comments, “created equal” and “equal before the law”, work for me in the sense that everyone is entitled to the same basic rights and freedoms.
    With respect to Andrew Jackson, the fact that Trump moved Jackson’s portrait into the Oval Office is indicative of where Trump’s team is heading. The big question for me is why does the public find Jackson and his modern day acolytes so appealing?

    • GoinFawr says:

      Hopefully it’s his monetary policy they find appealing, and not his tanning skills/penchant for employing human body parts as battle trophies.

      “Andrew Jackson, founder of the modern Democratic Party and greatest(sic)Indian(sic)killer of all American Presidents, urged United States troops “…to root out from their ‘dens’ and kill Indian women and their ‘whelps'” (Stannard, p. 240). Jackson was so effective at rooting women and “whelps” from their “dens,” he adopted the habit of cutting off his victims’ noses as trophies to commemorate his exploits. He earned the name “Sharp Knife” from Creek Indians for his penchant for skinning victims and using the cured and braided tissue as reins for his ponies (Takaki, 1994).” Ugh.

      That said, so far I haven’t noticed any interest at all in reintroducing Mr.Jackson’s monetary policies; rather the opposite, at least judging from all of the GS appointments.
      Uh Oh

      • GoinFawr: thanks for passing along the details of how Andrew Jackson came to be known as the “greatest Indian killer”. Jackson was known as a vicious and ruthless man for good reason. Once again one has to question Trump’s judgment in choosing Jackson’s portrait over so many others that were available to be hung in the Oval Office.

  11. David says:

    Incisive, as in ‘surgical’!
    Also very helpful in understanding the conservative mind. You should consider politics! Again.

  12. DHT says:

    Here is an n=2 with a twist. Something to consider when examining how we analyze the potential connections made between message delivered and interpretations made.
    http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2017/03/gender-reversal-teaches-uncomfortable-lessons.html

  13. DHT: the clip was fascinating. I too found myself drawn to the simpler “Trump” message. Kind of scary!

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